Thursday, July 24, 2014

New House

So we have a new house. :)

Yes, we are living there now. We had to wait another week after we closed on July 14, to have the floors refinished and then wait for the fumes to diminish. We still have barely any furniture moved in, though--just beds, our dining room table, a couch and various chairs.

We've been gradually getting everything we had brought with us to the garage and basement of the friends we were staying with, plus I have most of my kitchen and pantry items out of storage and mostly unpacked now. But we still have three storage units full of the rest of our stuff that we need to bring in to the house! One more week till the floors are fully cured, so we tell ourselves it's probably better to wait and not cover them with boxes yet anyway. And hey, we've already paid for the storage.

What you really want to see is pictures.

Probably not smart to post a photo here of the front of the house, but here's the back. The part under the sloped roof is the original 1903 brick Victorian. The part under the balcony is a 1965 addition. This back side of the house faces east, toward Lake Michigan.


Next we have the view from our balcony on the night we moved in. There was a Twilight Jazz concert at the bandshell, and you can even see a sailboat on the lake--it's a little white dot near the cloud line.


Our garage and back yard--


The 1965 addition. The wall on the right is brick, the original exterior wall. We did not re-do these floors--they haven't been covered by carpet and still look pretty good. 


This is the view across the front of the house, standing in the living room, looking across the foyer into the dining room. That's a smaller foyer leading to the front door, to the left, and between it and the dining room there is a roomy closet. In this photo, the floor guys had just sanded the living room floor.

Our 111-year-old floors are old-growth Oregon fir.

Master bedroom floor before...


And after!


A few more "afters"--

Here's the finished dining room, with the original 1950's wallpaper that I'm keeping, for now!


The living room (we're keeping the blue for now)...


and the other bedrooms.

B23 will get the smallest bedroom. No wallpaper, faces the lake.

Chicklet11 and B9 are sharing this room for now. Rosebud wallpaper, faces the street.

Everybody loves the wallpaper in the bicycle room! B19 and B15 are sharing this room with a lake view for now.
In the interests of getting something posted today, I will save kitchen and bathroom photos for another post! But here are a couple shots of the attic, which has been a preoccupation lately, as we've been talking to contractors about finishing it.



We plan to put a master bedroom at this end, and a library/office for Father Rooster in the end with the stairway, with a dormer out toward the lake to create a nice seating/meeting area as well. We'll put a bathroom in the existing dormer area towards the middle, with the three low windows in the first photo above.

One last photo. While we were waiting on the floors, we had a friend pressure-wash and stain our deck!


This was taken at 9:30 a.m.--we have dappled sunlight on it almost all morning. (Isn't our neighbor's house beautiful?) We've spent a lot of time out here already.

The second floor balcony is going to be a great outdoor space as well, once we deal with the peeling paint on the tin roof; we've been consulting on that too. We think we'll cover it with plywood, a rubber membrane and indoor/outdoor carpeting. But first we'll wait for the dormer in the roof above to be completed, since they are likely to set up equipment on the balcony during construction. Dominoes!

So many dominoes! I don't want to move a lot of stuff into the basement until we have shelves set up, and I don't want to set up all the shelves until the floor is swept, and I can't sweep the floor until.... It's the same story with the garage, the mudroom and other areas I'm trying to organize.

So I'm off to organize! But first let me say how thankful I am, every morning, for the gift of this house. That word--"gift"--just keeps coming up for me, tied to the house and this whole move, in so many ways that I am still unwrapping and receiving almost daily, so to speak--it seems like there is more to this gift than I even imagined, and we are receiving gifts related to it, too. Our kids feel it too, even the ones who were the most reluctant to leave our other house, who were not excited about us buying an old house--they are falling in love with this house, the neighborhood, "Lake living," and something intangible about being here. I think it has to do with being where God wants us.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Finishing Up the School Year Strong

With all the house excitement, I‘ve neglected to post anything about the end of our school year, but it’s worth mentioning! We had two graduations—B19’s from high school, and Blondechick’s from the School of Worship. We had a nice closing program for the Classical Conversations group which Chicklet11 and B9 were in this year, in which I taught the Essentials class. B14 completed his first year of high school successfully. We had a graduation party for B19, after our move, at the house where we are staying, so that’s done. Overall, it was a good school year indeed!

B19 is our first “homeschool graduate.” I have to use quotation marks because the irony is that he really wasn’t homeschooled at all for high school. For 9th grade, he was at a Christian school. For 10th and 11th grades, he was enrolled in a public virtual school; he took two college classes as a junior as well. For his senior year, we planned for him to take two classes at the public high school and two classes at the local college, in order for him to graduate from high school with about 18 college credits. He stuck to that plan first semester, but second semester he ended up taking only one class at college so that he could add another high school “class”—an internship at an elementary school, since he’d like to become a teacher for that age group. He enjoyed those fifth graders very much!

We didn’t do the homeschool graduation ceremony, since he really wasn’t part of the homeschool group. We had an open house, and we created a diploma, although we still have to print it out and give it to him. (Minor details!) I also need to create an official transcript for his high school years, adding in all the college classes he took and also his one homeschool class—a PE credit I gave him for all of his running, lifting and working out almost daily, for the last three years. Easiest class I ever taught!
He took this lovely lady (a friend from his church) to prom on his 19th birthday!
His immediate plans are to work this summer—he seems to have a niche as a shoe salesman, working at two jobs this summer, having left his first job awhile back, but all three at shoe stores!—and then go to the School of Worship in the fall--the same nine-month program that Blondechick just graduated from. While there, he may be discerning a call into ministry as well. He had a great year helping with the Campus Life group at his high school; he's led a few kids to the Lord and prayed for scores after sharing his testimony at the Christian school he used to attend, and also at two Youth for Christ fundraising banquets. Teacher, pastor, church musician…he’ll probably end up being all of these things in church settings, but as for a career and where he’ll pursue further education, we will be praying for God’s direction during the coming school year.

Blondechick had a wonderful year at the School of Worship. She grew so much in her faith, her knowledge of Scripture, her awareness of God’s presence and voice, and in her musical abilities.  She was required to take keyboarding and music theory, and be on a worship team. She learned chords and chord structure so she could accompany her team on the keyboard, and that helped her learn songwriting as well. Now that the school has ended and she’s no longer on a regular worship team, she’s been finding joy in writing her own songs.

Blondechick performing her own song at the Songwriting Showcase


 She’s a little unsure as to what comes next for her. She doesn’t want to return to college—she has no career goal that requires a degree, she really didn’t enjoy taking classes, and the college environment was not a good one for her. She’s nannying three days a week this summer and working part-time at a law office too. She hopes to be able to afford a small apartment, and see what God has in store for her! She and B19 have been attending the church that is affiliated with the School of Worship, where there are many young people their age, and we are so thankful for the good friends, pastors and mentors they have there. God provides!

B14 had a successful year in the public school, finishing up with good grades and nice affirmation from his teachers. This past spring, he was selected to be part of an improv team that was preparing for a big competition which took place this past weekend. His team finished somewhere in the middle of the ten teams that competed, but it was a lot of fun for him.  Chicklet11 and I also enjoyed the day-long event. B14 was invited to be part of an All-Star Jazz Choir that is rehearsing and performing this summer, and this week he's at an overnight camp with our Christian theater group, which was a meaningful experience for hm last year. When he returns, he’ll start a summer PE class at the public school. We are thankful that B23 is able to help with all the driving for his activities!


 Chicklet and B9 got off easy this spring, since we were busy packing for our move. Our Classical Conversations group kept us on track through the end of April, and I was just thrilled with how much they learned this year through that program alone! After that, they had a minimum amount of reading and math to get done each morning, and we’ve been sticking to that, some days, even this summer. They have handled the move so well, and they love being at our friends' house. They've been been busy playing together happily and creatively, seeing friends, and being outside. This past week, they’ve been making movies and camping out in the backyard.

I leave you with a short video of them performing a groovy little number at the CC closing program. It was their favorite "history sentence" put to music, and Chicklet made up the choreography!

video

Monday, July 07, 2014

Not Happy With Google

Smaaack!!

That was the sound of me kissing my dear little blog after a week of not being able to access it.

Let me just use the power of the internet to say I am not happy with Google, who owns Blogger now. For the past week, every time I tried to log on to my blog, I got a message--from Google--that said they were working hard to restore my access; try again in a few hours.

Days went by--not hours--and no change. So I posted my issue on a Google/Blogger Help Forum and got no response.

More days went by--still no response from Google--and finally I figured out on my own that the issue might be that somehow Blogger thought I was my husband, because somehow his account has become linked with mine on my laptop, and I noticed his account was marked the default account. I kept signing in as a different user, but apparently it wasn't signing him out completely. After some poking around the internet, I ran across a list of Google products that do not support multiple users, and Blogger was on the list. After a bit more searching on how to change the default account, I was able to completely sign him out and log myself on, and finally--it worked!

What a relief!

It's making me think hard about transferring my blog to another platform, though. I've been happy with Blogger for a long time, but not with Google. I hate that Google links users--why?? I hate that with Google it's impossible to switch my primary email on my profile--I am stuck with an account I didn't even mean to create, never used, never will use. I hate that they link products--why do I have to sign in to Google to sign in to Blogger? And if my son comes along to check his Gmail account on my laptop one fine day, then I will have TWO other Google profiles linked to my account. And they have products--like Blogger--that get confused when you have multiple users!

Nope, not happy with Google. But thrilled to be able to access my blog again!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Settled

I do apologize to my blogging friends who are not also my Facebook friends--in all the press and pressure of the last couple weeks, I didn't even post a short update! But it has been less than a week since we heard, on the same day that we closed on our old house, that our offer was accepted! We will close July 11 on the house that I mentioned in my last post. It's weird--I still wonder what we are doing buying this house--but the experience has been like getting caught up in a river current carrying us inexorably in this direction, and along with that current of events has come a peace and reassurance that God is the one moving us along. The house doesn't seem like a final destination--it's more like getting started on the right road. I'm just eager to see where it leads!

So that's settled. We have a place to live, in just another month or so.

We are also getting settled into our generous friends' home. Papa Rooster and I have our own bedroom in the basement, and B23 and B15 are sharing a bedroom upstairs. Chicklet and B9 sleep on a huge couch in the basement family room, inches away from a wonderful Lego storage area and a Wii. (We've never had one, so this is like the best vacation condo ever to them.) We have our own full bathroom down in the basement, and I should mention that this basement has 9-foot ceilings and windows everywhere, so we couldn't be more comfortable. Two other generous families are hosting Blondechick21 and B19, separately, and they are happy and comfortable as well.

Now if I could just find everything! During that last week in our old house, it was so crazy. I kept having to drop everything to drive to a theater in Milwaukee an hour away for the show Chicklet was in and I was helping to direct. (If I had guessed that we would sell our house so quickly, I would never have agreed to be on the directing team--but it was a great experience, despite the awful timing!) At the end, others packed up all the stuff that you leave till last because you use it all the time, so of course that's the stuff I've been struggling to find. We were running out of boxes, too, so it got packed in laundry baskets, trash cans, duffel bags, etc. along with all the stuff no one knew what to do with. We weren't allowed to put household chemicals or food in storage, so we have all the household cleaners and toiletries from 5 bathrooms, plus the kitchen and laundry room, and boxes and garbage bags of pantry items to sort through as well--all in the garage and storage room at the house where we are staying.

Unpacking and repacking--that's my plan for this afternoon! And just in time, I hope, because the lady of the house is coming home from the hospital in the next 24 hours or so! She had to have a sudden abdominal surgery that has kept her there for nearly a week now. The one silver lining of the trial--which thankfully she can't really appreciate--was that she wasn't here for the worst of the invasion of her home.

So many people at our church, and neighbors and other friends too, have been so much help to us in the last month. People lent us boxes and brought us meals. They packed box after box. One woman--new to our church--cleaned all five bathrooms, God bless her!! Friends took our two youngest kids. They moved our furniture and many, many boxes into storage. On moving day, Blondechick put out the word to her classmates at the School of Worship, and a half dozen international students showed up to do much of the heavy lifting in exchange for pizza and Coke! They had such great attitudes and servants' hearts, and it seemed like God's timing because they were all killing time between graduation and their flights back to Switzerland and Germany. They didn't have jobs or school like the other young people that would have liked to help us out but couldn't on a Tuesday--we'll hit them up again in another month when we have to move it all one more time, but hey, it will be a fresh team! And there were those that spent the better part of a week helping us already...and will do it all again in a month, we know. We had friends still at the house with us at 1 a.m. when we carried out the last box. We are truly blessed...and so, so thankful.

But we are DONE. And as settled as we can be, for a few weeks--or nearly so!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sacrifice

There are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices.

When we first were presented with the idea that Papa Rooster might come on full-time at LOC in the next year, we prayed. We talked, we crunched numbers, we prayed some more, and we felt reasonably certain that the prudent thing would be to downsize. Our mortgage was our biggest monthly expense, and it seemed reasonable that we could find something else somewhere in Kenosha--not as big, not as nice--that could house our family of eight and still be the ministry center our home has always been. It would be a sacrifice, but God would provide, and it would be worth it.

That prudential wisdom was confirmed by PR feeling a strong sense of the Lord telling him "Sell the house now." We responded as quickly as we could, and when our house was almost ready, we put it up for sale by owner. We assumed we'd end up listing it, but if God wanted to save us money and bring us a buyer, we were giving Him a chance. And He did!

Selling our house was easy--way easier than we expected. But buying was a different story. As we began looking at houses, it became clear that it would not be easy to find something in the neighborhood near our church facility, which was our deep desire. It was also the prayer of many in our congregation, we discovered, independently, which kept confirming our own sense of call to that location. Earthly wisdom would say that a short drive away is still close, so we looked at a number of possible houses that were a little farther out, but they seemed all wrong. They were too far away. 
We felt God nudging us into a certain small radius from the church, in order to be where He wants us to be and to do the ministry He wants us to do. 

This was not the sacrifice I was prepared to make! I wanted lots of options to choose from. Instead, 
our list of possible homes shrank to nearly nothing. We had seen all six or seven properties available in that neighborhood, and they were either too big and expensive or too small for our family. I was really looking forward to downsizing and having a smaller, cozier home that would be easier to care for. Instead, it began looking more and more like we were going to have to buy something almost as big, that cost more than the house we are leaving. Could this really be what God wanted? And yet, He gave us peace and continual confirmation that indeed, He did.

Furthermore, thanks to miscalculation and miscommunication, instead of receiving a hefty tax refund as usual, we owed for the first time in twenty years--exactly the amount that we had in savings, which we had planned to use as a down payment along with our tax refund and whatever we make on the sale of our current house. That circumstance made us investigate whether we should take money out of our 401K for a down payment, in order to afford something in a higher price range. We talked to a CPA and crunched more numbers. By then we were wishing we had thought of this before we sold our house, but much as we hate to leave it, we knew that it wouldn't have been right to refinance and continue living in our current home. We felt a peace that God was very intentionally relocating us. That was what this move was about. To be where He wanted us, we might have to tap retirement funds in order to buy a more expensive house--a sacrifice of a different sort than we had planned.

We began to ask everyone we knew, including total strangers out gardening, if they knew of anyone in that neighborhood that might be interested in selling. We followed up on several leads. One that kept coming up was this one house whose owner had passed away. It wasn't for sale, as far as we knew, and if it were, it would be too expensive. It was really close to our church facility though--the location was perfect. If it were to come available, we would have to seriously consider it.

Jumping ahead a bit, it did become available for us to see, though it is not on the market, and it has become clear to us that God wants us to pursue this house. We brought friends, family and church leaders with us into three very different houses, of different sizes and price points, and there was nearly unanimous agreement that neither of the other two were "it." This house, however, feels special, and some of our leaders felt clearly that this house was connected to God's mission for Light of Christ, as well as for our family. No one can draw a diagram on a napkin to explain it, but that conviction just won't go away, even as we consider the difficulties of buying this house. 

Because it will be expensive to buy and make livable for our family. It is honestly not the ideal house for us. There are two other comparably priced properties available which could work as well and have been fully updated--why not buy one of them instead? It's been a sacrifice for me to turn my back on them. It doesn't make sense on an earthly level. It's kind of another sacrifice--not to be able to explain rationally why we should spend money this way, when it goes against every grain of my frugal, common-sense being.

We are going to make an offer and see what God will do. We invite you to pray with us!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holy Week Report



My heart is so full! What a glorious Holy Week it was.

This year, I don't have a lot of time or pictures, since we didn't have a photographer at any of the services, so I can't do the kind of picture post I've done in previous years. Instead, I am just going to let the words of others speak for me. These were all collected from social media, so I am trusting that their authors don't mind. (If anybody wants credit, let me know. :)


Attended my first Easter Vigil last night at Light Of Christ. Loved it!!! Next year I think we are going to make attending Light of Christ for all of Holy Week a priority!


Wow! What a wonderful Easter Vigil service! Jumpin' priests, clappin' deacons...and bells and alleluias everywhere! Praise God for his love and mercy!


Here's a little video of what she's referring to, when the whole congregation acclaims "Alleluia! The Lord is risen!" and bursts forth with a "Holy Noise":


video


Easter Vigil at Light of Christ is always a powerful experience, and last night was no exception. Particularly moving to me was to witness the baptism of a girl who recently came to faith. Charlotte Mason wrote, "What a thought of joy at the baptismal font, of consolation throughout life amid the tossing of the waves of this troublesome world, is this of the divine Spirit coming to us, also, in the likeness of a dove." The divine Spirit came last night - in the baptism, in the prayers, and in the worship. I know I did not bring Him - I found Him there. He brought to my mind a vivid remembrance of the day when I was 16 years of age, sitting in my room, and I came to faith. What an indescribable gift, and one that is renewed every day.

The little girl referred to is Chicket's friend. What a beautiful moment. It was so wonderful to have her whole family there!

Every Easter Vigil is wonderful. Each one has its own golden moments. Last Saturday was no exception.



This year we had welcome gifts for visitors!

The altar on Easter Sunday morning

Here is the teaser video I put up on Facebook of my two sons in rehearsal for the Ezekiel reading, in the valley of the Dry Bones:

video


And here is a little more. Let's just say that when they actually gave the reading, B18 had a black folder in hand, not an iPhone...!

video


I wish I had recorded snippets of others. All went so well. I was so pleased!


Finally, this moving excerpt from a parishioner's journal about a previous Good Friday service at our church. I loved it because I had a similar sense of joy and love fill me this year at the veneration of the cross, when we place the cross on the ground and invite everyone to come forward and pray, with their hand or head upon it.

"_________ preached. He stressed how Christ paid for us completely, with no merit or contribution from us. Normally at Good Friday, I feel that I am to feel sorrow for Christ's suffering, or sorrow for my sin. I feel that I am to be somehow sad, dressed in black.

"At the veneration of the cross, I walked up to the cross, knelt down by it, and touched my head to it. I was at the base of the cross. In my mind's eye I looked up towards the top of the cross. I saw the cross not against the rug but against a clear blue sky with sunlight streaming around it.

"The music started. Instead of sorrowful tunes, it was a light and happy piece. I felt the joy well up in me that was supposed to be reserved for Easter. Good Friday is the black and sad day, but I felt warmth and joy. The sunlight from my image of the cross seemed to radiate directly to my heart. I felt as if Christ’s love was complete. I held up my hand to receive the streaming light. I remembered my confession from today. I felt the light stream back to the situations where I had sinned. I felt Christ’s mercy wash over me and cover each of those sins completely.

"__________ sang Rock of Ages. The joy and delight in my heart was complete. It was in the cross that I found the perfect joy of Christ’s love. I understand now why Catherine [of Siena] said that this love should motivate us to serve God completely – she basked in that love every day.

"Then we said the confession. My normal mood is to focus on sorrow for sin and humility. I make myself feel sorry for my sins. I wear it like a weight, like pouring ashes over myself. Suddenly the words of the confession seemed to light up on the page, as if the letters were actually in gold. The words were pure joy. I saw that I was 'lucky' to pray this prayer. It was a feeling of good fortune. It was like winning the lottTery – to say these words was to enter into the fullness of Christ’s love and mercy. I wanted to laugh. I almost whispered the words. Confession as the sweet and joyous pleasure – because by being nothing, I had the great reward – Christ and His love.

"The images were so real to me – I knew I had consolation from God. I knew I would forget it – so I had to write it down."


If anyone else wants to draw my attention to a social media posting that I missed, or send me their impressions, I would gladly add them!

Wish I had time to write more. We had so many little hitches in the first part of the Easter Vigil service, for example, but Father Rooster took lemons and made lemonade with them in his wonderful Vigil homily. Even the mistakes gave glory to God!


Praise Jesus! He is risen, and by his stripes, we are healed!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

House Update: The Long Version

Where to start??

Everything has happened so fast!

The story so far:  Anticipating that Papa Rooster would be able to quit his sales/consulting/executive job and become full-time priest at Light of Christ sometime in the next year, we crunched some numbers and realized we needed to downsize in order to live on a much smaller salary. Even with all six kids presently living at home, four of them are 15 or over, so while downsizing may be cramp us all a bit in the short term, it seems reasonable for long-term living. It wasn't a decision based on numbers alone; we also felt like God was asking us to do it, which was the more important thing in our minds.

That was last year, and our target date to put the house up for sale was mid-March. Our hope and prayer was that the whole transition would go quickly and we'd be done selling, buying and moving early enough to still have a summer left over! We had our basement family room and two bedrooms repainted. I spent many hours spackling and touching up the paint in high-traffic areas. In February, a team of women from church helped wash walls, windows, woodwork, light switches and more. We had the carpets cleaned, and then while we were waiting for mid-March to arrive, I decided to post the house on Craigslist, just to see what might happen. Then someone told me you could list your house on Zillow, as a for sale by owner, so I did that too.

And we started having a few showings. First friends or friends-of-friends, none of whom were really ready to buy. Then we had several that came from agents who had seen it on Zillow. Our date in mid-March had arrived, and I was anxious about whether to go ahead and list it as scheduled with our realtor. The pace of the showings we were getting was so manageable, and both Papa Rooster and I were dreading listing it because we knew there would probably be a lot of showings on it initially, and all the activity of constantly cleaning and leaving just felt so out-of-synch with what we were calling everyone at Light of Christ to do during Lent--which was to enter into the season not with activity, but with increased time given to prayer and listening. We envisioned this as a "first chapter," a way to for our congregation to prepare for the next season, or "second chapter," after Lent when the leadership would begin to take more action toward figuring out how to bring Father Rooster on full-time.

But God moved faster than expected and brought us two offers at once, just three weeks after we listed the house on Zillow. One was for our full price, but had a home sale contingency; we negotiated with the other buyers and ended up settling on a price just under our asking price.

It all happened so fast that our hearts and minds could barely keep up. Suddenly we weren't sure about selling! Had we heard wrong? Were we really supposed to give up this house? We called on others to lift us up in prayer, and we started hearing back some great words of reassurance. "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." "Watch...watch what I am about to do, unfolding the plan that is already secure." "It is the offering up of your 5 loaves and 2 fishes...all that you had to feed yourself...a costly sacrifice, but watch what God will do with it!" We even found confirmation on the lips of our neighbor, the realtor we were going to list with, who said, "You really got that divine intervention thing goin' on, because let me tell you, NOBODY gets two offers at once and gets basically the asking price on their house just 3 weeks into a FSBO! That just NEVER happens. God must really be lookin' out for you!"

(Later, we began to wonder if we had not set our price high enough, even though it seems we did very well, but the interesting thing is that I didn't change anything on Zillow--nothing indicates that the house is under contract--and we have not had even one more inquiry since the day the buyers came through. Another confirmation, it seems, that God did it.)

So we have begun looking at houses. Papa Rooster and others in our church feel strongly that our next house will be in the same neighborhood as the Kemper Center, where our church meets--not just a 5 minutes' car ride near, but walking distance. Narrowing the neighborhood down that much makes this a pretty tall order for God to fill! The Kemper Center is right on Lake Michigan, so we can't look east of it at all. To the north just a few blocks is the commercial district of downtown. Most of our options lie west or south of it in what is called the historic district: Big old showplaces that need work, are overpriced and have really high taxes because they are so near the lake, or small bungalows, cottages or Victorians that need work, have high taxes and are too small for our family. Moderately sized, moderately priced homes are largely unavailable in this area.

We found one that we seriously considered for a couple days. It would have been quite a snug fit for all of us but it was doable because it had one thing that hardly any homes in this area have--a dry, square, finishable basement. We could have added two more bedrooms and a small office in the basement, and still kept the large family room that was already finished there. Plus there were three decent size bedrooms above ground, a kitchen beyond what I could ever have asked for or imagined, a 3-season sunroom, a gorgeous living room with hardwood floors and lots of windows, exactly what our ideal living room would look like, an attached garage (another thing that you just don't get in the historic district), two beautifully re-done full bathrooms...all on just a bit smaller scale than Papa Rooster was comfortable with. We invited friends from church to come, especially to look at the basement with us and make sure it was finishable as we wanted--which it was--but they all said they had trouble seeing us there; they thought it was just too small, and the layout didn't open it up enough on the main floor.

It was hard for me to accept, even though God actually woke me up and spoke to me in the middle of the night--even before our friends weighed in--telling me that this house was an Ishmael. I knew it was Him, I knew I was going to have to accept it, but when I woke up in the morning, I really struggled. I can totally believe that we can find something bigger, but I struggle to believe that we will find something bigger that is still affordable on a pastor's salary, and this house was already on the way upper end of affordable. And doggone it, even if this house was an Ishmael--not God's chosen way of providing for us, just as Abraham's son with Sarah's maid Hagar was not the son God had promised--it was an Ishmael I could totally love and be happy in! Our kids were so disappointed too. So many neat things about the corner lot and yard, the location, and the many charms of the house.

We have basically looked at all possibilities in the area now, and all we can do is wait for something new to come on the market. Thankfully, it's still early in the selling season, which seems to have been delayed this year because of the hard winter. Our closing date, when we have to have all our belongings out of our house, looms just six weeks from today. It's been so difficult for me to even think about packing, since I don't know where we and our stuff are headed next. Friends have offered to put us all up in their home for a transition time of a few weeks, but where should we store all our stuff--short-term, or long-term? Will we end up needing to rent something for a while? What to store, what to get rid of, what can be inaccessible indefinitely, what will we need access to?

So I haven't began packing, really. It's Holy Week, and Father Rooster and I are doing our best to push house worries away and enter into the journey, which began last night with a beautiful Maundy Thursday service. We washed each other's feet, and I am grateful to say that he has handled my conflicting emotions and disappointment so well, in a way that has pulled me closer to him rather than separating us. He's had a sense all along that we wouldn't find our next house before Easter, and I am doing my best to trust and have faith.

Today, we have a Stations of the Cross service this afternoon, and a Good Friday service tonight. Tomorrow, I have a full morning of final run-throughs and sound checks for the Easter Vigil readings that I am directing. I think they are all going to be really good again this year, and not because everything is super well-rehearsed--it's not--but I can just sense that the Holy Spirit is going to fill each one beyond what we have rehearsed or can give in our own abilities! Plenty of cracks for Him to fill in. :)

I am also excited that Chicklet's friend, mentioned in the last post, is being baptized at the Vigil, and her whole family is coming! Her mom came with her to Palm Sunday last week and really enjoyed it. We really loved their family; we got to know them better when we had them over to discuss the baptism. We all agreed that our daughters' friendship has been such a special thing for both of them--they are two sweet peas in a pod! A big bummer for the two of them that we are moving. We will have to go to extra lengths to get them together. 

A blessed Holy Weekend to all!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Watching God Work

It's been an exciting Lent so far!

That's not one of the usual adjectives to describe Lent, I realize. But it's been true this year. As a church, we've been calling our congregation to pray very specifically this Lent for Kenosha and our church's role here. We take our name, Light of Christ, literally. We long to be Christ's light dispelling the darkness of a depressed city and of lives that are shadowed by darkness and hopelessness.

We have been meeting in groups throughout the week to pray. Though I haven't been part of all these meetings, it's been exciting--there's no other word for it--to hear how God has been leading folks to pray, and how He is answering those prayers!

I can't tell other people's stories, but just in the past week, several things happened that I can share. On Sunday, one of Chicklet's friends came to church with us. Afterwards, she told Chicklet she had never been baptized and she wanted to be! The next day Blondechick21 talked with her about what it all meant, and prayed with her to commit her life to the Lord. The odd thing was, we weren't praying specifically for this little girl; we had never even thought to invite her to church before, I must confess. But we had been praying specifically for God to send another friend for Chicklet at our church, since one of her church friends had moved away. On the same Sunday that this new friend came, we found out that Chicklet's one remaining friend at church is also moving away, which would have left her the only girl her age at church. But now she has this new friend, if her parents allow her to keep coming with us. And even if they don't...look what praying that specific prayer for Chicklet brought about in her sweet friend's life!

Then at Campus Life this week, at the public high school that B15 and B18 attend, a whole bunch of kids gave their lives to the Lord. It was a move of the Spirit--the leaders just invited people to come forward if they needed prayer for burdens to be lifted. Kids started pouring forward, to the point that the guitarist, who was just strumming, asked B18 to take over so he could go help pray for people. I can't help but wonder if B18's ministry in music, then, became a factor, since I believe when gifted people are operating in their gifts, the Spirit's power is poured out! (And it's become clear recently that B18 is not only musically gifted, but also spiritually gifted to minister through music--another exciting thing to see!) Our sons never heard an exact number of kids who prayed to receive Christ, but they both say "it was a lot."

Another incident this week was a conversation I had with a mom who didn't know if she had ever been baptized. Should she be? She had never really thought about it. Her kids weren't baptized and she didn't know if her husband ever had been. I told her different denominations have different beliefs about sacraments, but that just as most of us all agree that taking communion is important (though we may not agree on how often), baptism is the other sacrament that most denominations would agree is important, if not necessary. We talked about what the Bible says about it, that it goes hand in hand with salvation. And like Eucharist, if the Lord even just strongly suggested it...why wouldn't you? She sounded eager to discuss it with her husband, and--who knows?-- maybe that whole family will be baptized now, because of that conversation.

Finally, our house. Along with all this prayer going on, there has been a sense of preparation for the things God is going to do at our church, including the provision for how to pay a full-time rector. (Hearing last week that one of our key families is moving away did not seem like a step in the right direction, either!)  But it's not a time to act, to plan, to figure it out; it's a season to pray and to prepare. The fulfillment will come later.

In prayer, we decided not to take action with our house right now either. We were going to list it with a realtor this weekend, but we will wait till Lent is over and list on the Friday after Easter. It is still informally for sale by owner--I've listed it on Craigslist and on Zillow, and we've had about one showing a week through those avenues--so if God wants to bring us a buyer during Lent, He certainly still could. But during Lent we won't have that flurry of activity and stress that comes when you first list a house, and I'm praying that it won't be needed at all--that the right buyer would come along before then, and that we would be able to sell with the bare minimum of effort and stress on our family. In any case, we invite you join us in prayer for the right buyer to come along in exactly God's timing, especially when our next house, which I know God is preparing for us even now, is available!

Meanwhile, we have a little more time to chip away at projects that need doing in the house. Why does it seem like no matter how much I get done, the list stays the same length??

Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement of seeing You work! May others be encouraged also, toward prayer, toward trust, toward faith in You..


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

New Season, New Deacon

It's Ash Wednesday, and we had a somber, silent service. We are in the season of Lent now.

But last Sunday, it was a joyful celebration as we ordained one of our own to the office of deacon.

Here he is, with his family--and with our new Bishop, on his first episcopal visit to Light of Christ!


An ordination is a pretty special service.



You can't tell at this angle, but there are three women in the crowd above laying hands on and praying aloud for our ordinand. I'm one of them!


Our kids, who remember Bishop Stewart a bit from our old church, were the first to step up close to him when he called the children forward.


But none of the kids were shy when the Bishop asked them for a group hug!


The Light of Christ clergy team with their bishop. (Father Rand, on the far right, has his own church now, a seedling plant out in Big Rock, IL, but he's been a partner at LOC so long--he comes faithfully, once a month or so--that we still happily claim him!)

Deacon Luke will be ordained Father Luke eventually, Lord willing...and then who knows where God will take him? But for now, we are so happy to have him serving as deacon at Light of Christ!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February News

Oh my. I really am in trouble if I'm down to once-a-month posts!

But there are reasons....

To kick off the month, two more birthdays! We held simultaneous birthday gatherings for the newly-minted Bantam15 and his friends--in the basement, watching a movie--and the new Bantam9--in the big bedroom, building Lego creations. We served pizza in shifts and then birthday brownies and ice cream. Friends of B18 and Blondechick stopped in, so we fed them too. The more the merrier!

B15 has recently become fascinated with the land of Norway, since he is one-quarter Norwegian. He asked for and received a wallet with the Norwegian flag AND the Norwegian coat of arms as embellishments. We also gave him a travel guide of Norway, which he has found most engaging. His big gift, however, was a phone. It's a hand-me-down, older phone that used to be his brother's, without internet and without texting. But at least I no longer have to call his friend's phones to find out where he is or work out how he's getting home, which was getting embarrassing. Yup, I had all his friend's cell numbers in my Contacts!

B9 wanted little green army men and a B9-sized army gun. Check! He also wanted Legos, so we suggested that his friends chip in toward a biggish set to be purchased AFTER we move, hopefully, since Mom is in major decluttering mode now and was not keen for him to receive another half-dozen smaller Lego sets as birthday gifts. He also asked for The Action Bible, a graphic novel-like retelling. His grandparents had given him the Action New Testament last year for Christmas and he loved it so much that he wanted the whole thing, including the Old Testament. It appears to me that it was his favorite gift!

In other news, we are getting our house ready to put on the market. Our church is still figuring out how they are going to do it financially (that's a prayer request, if you think of it!) but the plan is for Father R to go full-time in the next year, and we feel strongly that we should downsize before that, if possible.

So I've been pushing hard to declutter, deep-clean and get some painting done. The only way I've been able to work on it--and still keep homeschooling and teaching my classes--is to chip away at it in all my free moments. (Thus my lack of time to spend blogging!) I've spent days with my kids culling their stuff and organizing their rooms. I've forced myself to deal with all the stuff I've shoved in the closet and under the bed in my own room. I've rearranged kitchen and bathroom cabinets to make room for many things we ordinarily leave out, so these areas will show well--and be easier to clean quickly! I cleaned out one of our storage rooms and got rid of many things we've been--well--storing. I've been using our 15-passenger van as a temporary storage unit for stuff heading to St. Vincent DePaul's, our charity thrift store of choice--and we filled it up! It feels good to lose weight.

I've had help too. Ladies from church came over to help wash walls, woodwork, light switches, window panes and crevices, which was such a help! We hired a friend to paint the basement (last fall) and two bedrooms this winter. I've been busy spackling, paint-matching and touching-up many dents and dings all over the hallways, doorways and walls. The older kids are doing bathrooms and cleaning up their bedrooms. B23 boxed up many books, went through files and drawers and found lots that he could part with. (He reported the same feeling of losing weight in his life!) Papa Rooster will be doing the same in his office storage area. Chipping away is not his cleaning style, so he'll take a day off of work here sooner or later to get it done. I hope one day is enough; he has a lot of stuff to get through!

The plan is to list the house in mid-March, after The Wizard of Oz closes--and we are in tech week already! I've been helping with lights this time and learning a whole new vocabulary. Did you know you can patch lights, as well as park and bump them? Stage lights don't have light bulbs; they have lamps. I am learning the limitations and abilities of technobeams, LEDs, pars, fresnels and gobos. It's overwhelming, especially programming them, but also quite fascinating and--oh yes, I have to say it--illuminating!

It's good knowledge to have if I continue directing shows--and I am excited to be on another directing team for the spring! Chicklet and I (and maybe B15) will head north to the Milwaukee chapter of our Spotlight theater group. They are doing a show called Pridelands, inspired by The Lion King. I will be assistant director, and as a little relief from cleaning and teaching, I've been reviewing the script and DVD's of past performances, and bouncing ideas off the head director. We have such a stimulating Facebook message thread going with all our ideas for the show!

So my spring could be pretty busy, especially if our house sells quickly. But it could also take a year, as our old house did, and this is a more unique house. With the bedroom and office spaces we added in the basement, it has a total of 7 bedrooms, plus 4.5 baths. Please pray for the right buyer, as well as the right house for us to move into! We've looked a little--enough to know we will be able to find something--but the priority has been to get this house ready first. We've had a couple people come look at it already, before it's listed, and it would be great if one of them bought it, since we wouldn't pay a realtor's commission in that case. 

I forgot to take "before" pictures, but maybe I'll have some "after" photos to post soon. But this week--and for the next two weekends--we're off to see the Wizard!

Monday, January 27, 2014

January News

You know you're neglecting your blog when...you miss two family birthdays!

Mine was back on January 9th. I treated myself to a morning alone at Panera; all six kids ate dinner with us--a rare occurrence these days--and Chicklet11 made me birthday brownies. Everyone gave me handmade cards with sweet notes in them, and most indulged my request to play a game of Trivial Pursuit together. A great day!

Eldest Bantam turned 23 on January 21st. His birthday fell on a Tuesday, which is the day that B8, C11 and I are gone all day at Classical Conversations, with just an hour or so before classes at Spotlight Youth Theater. So we had birthday dinner the night before. Once again, we had everyone around the table, at least for 20 minutes or so! (Blondechick had to leave before pecan pie, the birthday dessert he chose, which B14 helped to make!)

He asked for and received a couple of Halo books and an official Halo hoodie. He is so proud of it, and he looks very handsome in it.


But his big gift was one he bought himself, from a friend--a secondhand XBox 360 and a subscription to a gaming site. He has been waiting a long time for this, and he's so excited.

We had actually promised to buy him one if he could get his weight down to 170, which he has not quite achieved. He was at 250 after his first year in college, and he easily got back down to 200, his pre-college weight, but he's been stuck there ever since. He knows our fear is that the XBox will encourage him to be more sedentary, so ever since his friend offered him this deal, he's been demonstrating a renewed commitment to exercise and low-carb, veggie-heavy lunches. He lost 8 pounds in about 10 days and it's noticeable in his face. So hopefully he'll keep it up, to prove to us that we didn't make a mistake in allowing him to have it early!

I mentioned theater classes. This session I'm teaching Drama 1, with a Charlie Brown theme. B8 is in my class--one of just two boys--and he's Charlie Brown in our showcase skit. (I asked another drama teacher to help me with casting of the boys, to be sure of impartiality!) B14 is taking Improv Prep. If he makes the cut at the end of the session, he'll be on the Kenosha Improv Team next session, and compete again in June, as he did last year. Chicklet11 auditioned for and made the Project Dance Jr. class, which is a two-session commitment, so she'll be taking it again this spring. She is learning lots of technique and really loving it. She begged to be allowed to take another class besides dance, so I let her take a voice class which is performing songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie for Showcase. She is so happy to learn the words to songs she heard me practicing last summer!

Rehearsals have been going on for The Wizard of Oz, as well. Chicklet11 is excited to be the Coroner of Munchkinland, with little solos and one big one: "As Coroner, I must aver, I've thoroughly examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." She's also a Jitterbug Dancer, which will be a fun number! B8 is a member of the Lollipop Guild, which gets me, because that's the same part that B18 had back when he was B9. He is also a Flying Monkey, which he's really excited about, because they get to wear Heelys onstage! I am so thankful I bought a pair at Goodwill a couple years ago, even though they were too big for him then. They're expensive!


B14 is a Jitterbug Dancer (fun for him and Chicklet to have the same part--a first!), a Winkie one of (the Witch's guards) and a Tree who throws apples at Dorothy to frighten her and sings back-up harmonies to the Tin Man's solo. He will be wearing stilts for that scene, and on the first day they were practicing with them, it was a little more exciting than anyone expected.


After he and his friend had the hang of them, they jacked them up to the highest setting, about 4 feet off the ground. He was doing fine until he tripped on a folding chair leg, stumbled into other folding chairs and finally fell forcefully into a glass window. He bounced away from it as he hit it, but the window shattered and he was cut on his hand and arm and just nicked his chin. Fortunately, it was right at the end of rehearsal, and I was only two minutes away. (I often send B23 to get them, but this time I was the one coming to pick them up--thank the Lord!) There were other parents there too, arriving to pick up their kids, including a nurse who was helping to stop the bleeding when I arrived. We went to the ER and determined that he did not need stitches. We deferred an X-ray on his sore knees--at worst, he might have a patella fracture but it seems more likely that nothing was broken.

He was really shaken up, and we all were so aware of how life-threatening the accident could have been. We are so thankful to God for his protection, and that his injuries are so minimal.

On the plus side, now he has a great story to tell, with a scar to prove it! How many people can say that they've fallen through a glass window while wearing stilts??

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Classical Conversations Booklist--Cycle Two, Middle Ages

This fall I decided to try making a photo record of the books we've read for homeschooling. I am always asking Chicklet11 and B8 to keep a list of books they read, which they never do, and I haven't been much better myself. This is the first year since we started homeschooling that I am not keeping detailed records of everything we do each day, since I consider the Classical Conversations (CC) program and curriculum comprehensive enough, with our added math program; what I've done at home is flesh out the CC memorized concepts. So if I had to show someone what we've covered, it's all there in the CC manuals. I have to say that it's given me a new freedom to follow our nose on whatever threads we are most interested in, and since we're not doing daily workbooks, the kids think it's a treat when I have an appointment and I leave them a list of workbook pages to do!

But I did want something to remind me of all we've enjoyed together, and I was inspired to take a photo before I returned a bunch of library books. Then I tried to remember what we had read previously and gather those books together too. I haven't photographed any of the kids' free reading choices, but these are most of the books we've read together.

  
These are all books we're reading on an ongoing basis. My absolute favorite of these is A Child's History of the World, by Hillyer. (So much more enjoyable to read aloud than The Story of the World, in my opinion. I would lose the kids' attention when I read SOW, but they don't want me to stop reading CHW!)

The Usborne Book of World History is a great pictoral, summarizing resource that we've used on and off for years. I am really impressed with A Child's Introduction to Poetry, which came with Chicklet's virtual school curriculum last year. It has a two- or three-page spread on each major poet or poetry type, with sample poems, explanations of vocabulary and images, whimsical illustrations and includes a CD. I especially like how it delves into what a sonnet is or what a limerick is, giving lots of examples.

Tales of the Not Forgotten is a favorite with my little mission-minded girl. The tales are pretty long so we break them up, but I tend to take breaks in between each one. I'm not sure I really like The Everyday Bible. I heard it recommended as a good Bible for younger kids to read aloud because it's written at a 6th grade reading level and the vocabulary is aimed at brand-new Christians, but you definitely lose beauty and familiarity of language. We've been reading Mark aloud, taking turns reading, but we're going to switch to one of Paul's letters after the semester break, to see if I like it any better.
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This photo documents a departure from the Middle Ages, back when we were doing the musical Hercules, and they just HAD to read some other Greek myths too! They read all of these to themselves, so I can't really comment as to quality, but they enjoyed them all. They also browsed D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, a perpetual favorite here.

They read all of these to themselves too. They especially liked the Sir Gawain stories. These were a follow up to the Arthurian stories below.


I read all of these aloud to the kids, except for the red Martin Luther biography which I made both of them read to themselves (since we had it on our shelves, it was short, and it fit our time period). All the rest I can highly recommend. If you've never read any of the D'Aulaire's fine books, you must hie thee to a library forthwith! The Robert D. San Souci books about Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin were wonderful too--really well-written with beautiful illustrations. 

I reviewed Spy for the Night Riders, exciting historical fiction with Martin Luther as a main character, here.We really enjoyed it, and we started another of the Trailblazer books right away! Starry Messenger is science in a Caldecott-winning disguise--elaborate illustrations with tiny text of Galileo's own words; it's all about Copernicus' theories and Galileo's discoveries. Michelangelo is by Diane Stanley, my favorite author of illustrated children's biographies. Michelangelo's story was great, but I see I forgot to photograph my absolute favorite bio by her, Joan of Arc. B8 was so transfixed by her story that he stopped coloring to come sit next to me, hanging on every word. I didn't realize that transcripts of her trial still exist, so this biography was fully fleshed out with her own words. Riveting!

Here are a few of our science books for the semester, since we started studying space. The Reasons for Seasons and The Moon Book are both by Gail Gibbons. The Childcraft volumes have been fun too. How We Get Things tells how things are produced or how they were invented. Look Again is more of an art book; just realized, we haven't actually read it yet! They read other Easy Reader science books to themselves too; I just didn't round them all up.

And before we move off of science, I must proudly record the fact that we dissected owl pellets this semester. They were sent to us by Chicklet's virtual school last year, but we pulled out before we got to that unit. Though she kept begging to dissect them, I kept putting it off. This year we decided it would make a perfect family presentation for CC--and it was!

Last group. Peter the Great is another excellent Diane Stanley biography. Gutenberg was a library book with nice illustrations, but as a biography it just didn't have that magic that I look for in a good one. The Golden Treasury of Poetry is one of many poetry anthologies we own, but this one includes seasonal poems, so I pulled it out to read all the Christmas poetry. (I posted one on Christmas Day!)

B8 loved Days of the Knights, an Eyewitness Reader with lots of sidebar information and detailed drawings. Medieval World is another Usborne Book; I like to flip through it and point out things we've memorized for CC and help them see how it all ties together. (It's a nice pictoral supplement to A Child's History of the World.)

But my favorite resource in this photo is Tales from Shakespeare. Written in 1807 by Charles and Mary Lamb, they retain the Shakespearean vocabulary and turns of phrase while abridging and explaining the story for children (and fortunate adults--this is such a great way to enjoy Shakespeare!). The sentence structure is so complex that they can be challenging to read aloud--but I enjoy them more for that.

I would encourage anyone who is homeschooling (or "afterschooling") to supplement curriculum with these types of picture books, even if your kids are reading chapter books. First of all, they are a nice length to snuggle up with and read aloud for a short period, even if it takes a couple sittings for some of the longer ones. Even older kids enjoy the pictures, and the images help them remember facts. Also, there is no better way to introduce or review complex history or science, I think, than in a kids' book that highlights the main points so you easily recognize them as such. I love the Usborne and Eyewitness books for that reason.

We are eager for second semester to begin! I have a basket of books for us to choose from.